One of the appeals of professional sports is that every time you go to the arena, field or court, you might see something you've never seen before in your life. Alex Ovechkin's game-winning goal in the third period was one of those moments.

Defenseman Bryan Helmer pushed the puck along the boards where Ovechkin collected it. The reigning NHL MVP deked defenseman Henrik Tallinder, then while Tallender was regaining his balance, slid the puck off his back hand through Tallinder's legs just inside the blue line, putting the puck on Ovechkin's forehand.

Tallinder got part of a check on Ovechkin as the left winger was going by, and as he fell to his knees, the "Great Eight" got enough on his shot to beat goalie Patrick Lalime short side, taking a 3-1 lead.

The three goals would stand up, as the Caps held off a late third period flurry to defeat the Buffalo Sabres, 3-2, before 18,277 at the Verizon Center.

Ovechkin appeared to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead late in the second period, but a goalie interference call against teammate Brooks Laich negated it, motivating Ovechkin even further.

Washington (22-11-3-45, first in Southeast) received goals from Viktor Kozlov and Boyd Gordon in addition to Ovechkin's marker, and veteran minor leaguer Bryan Helmer chipped in two assists.

Helmer, 36, was recently named as one of the captains in the AHL All Star game in January, but he'll gladly trade that honor for more nights like tonight in the NHL.

Jose Theodore turned away 22 of the 24 shots he faced, but he certainly could not be faulted for the second goal.

Sabres defenseman Toni Lydman misfired on a slap shot from the point and the puck hit Maxim Afinogenov, who was trying to simply get out of the way. The puck then managed to bounce behind Theodore, pulling Buffalo (16-14-5-37, third in Northeast) to within one goal.

The Caps would stymie the Sabres for the remaining 1:49 and extend their home record to 14-1-1, best in the Eastern Conference. Carolina knocked off Atlanta, keeping pace with the Caps, eight back in the Southeast Division race.

Photo by AP.

WAS: Kozlov (9) from Backstrom and Helmer (2-17:46); Gordon (3) from Jurcina (3-1:58); Ovechkin (23) from Helmer (3-8:27)

BUF: Vanek (25) from Stafford and Spacek (3-6:13-PP); Afinogenov (2) from Lydman and Kotalik (3-18:11)

1. B. Helmer - WAS (Goals: 0, Assists: 2)
2. D. Brashear - WAS (Goals: 0, Assists: 0)
3. A. Ovechkin - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)

Caps' Captain Chris Clark returned from the Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) after missing 14 games with a stress fracture in his forearm.

Washington out shot Buffalo 34-24.

Sergei Fedorov has been put on LTIR, retroactive to Dec. 14th. He is eligible to return Jan. 9 vs. Columbus.